“Concerning Him we have much to say… (but) you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God….” (Hebrews 5:11-12).
If we do not settle what are the basic principles and doctrines constituting faithfulness to God, we will argue over silly things, unworthy issues, secondary matters.
I’m 74 years old and the playbook says I should be a defender of the status quo, reacting against modern innovations and speaking with reverence of the glorious days of old when I was a young minister just starting out.
I’ll not be doing any of that.
The status quo is nowhere I want to camp out. The past is nowhere I want to live. Nostalgia, as they say, is not what it used to be. The past is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Modern innovations are what we make of them, good or bad. And the glorious days of yore were anything but glorious. They were amazingly like today and a lot like tomorrow.
Personally, I like laptops and smartphones. I love Facebook and enjoy blogging. I like having 150 channels on my television (since there’s rarely anything worth watching on 140 of them!). I love the SiriusXM radio on my car; it sure makes those long drives easier.
I’m relieved when a host pastor tells me to leave my neckties and suits at home, and overjoyed when I find that the church where I’m to preach Sunday loves to sing lively choruses, that the people come to the altar and pray during invitations, and that the congregation welcomes worshipers of all races. When I hear this church has started two new plants and is regularly sending mission teams to help struggling congregations or overburdened missionaries overseas, I am elated.
Recently, on this website, I posted an article about change, basically saying that life is change. All living beings are in a state of constant change. If your church is alive, it’s never static but is changing from week to week.
Most responses were positive, but some were negative and a few were hostile. More than one said, “I disagree with everything in the article.”
What I would sincerely and earnestly love to say to some of my brethren (and cistern–lol) is simply: Get over thse hangups about secondary issues..
Jesus never wore a necktie. None of the disciples did.
Some things are cultural and not spiritual.
The typical pair of blue jeans today costs more than the suit I got married in. And the sneakers cost more than our entire honeymoon trip.
Not one word in Scripture supports the idea that one’s go-to-meeting clothes should be any different from his/her weekday clothes. Not one.
In fact, we get the impression from everything we read in Scripture that people had no special dressup clothing in that culture. What’s more, my understanding is that they used the outer garment as cover when they slept, meaning some of their clothing was worn 24 hours a day.
We’re going to argue over suits and neckties or denims and sneakers?
These issues are cultural.
Someone sent me a private note last week asking about interracial dating and marriage. “Is there anything in Scripture that speaks to this?” I said, “Not a thing.”
Whether it’s a good idea or not is another matter. But we must not make it a question of one’s faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
1) If I read from a Bible bound in black leather with the pages edged in gold and you read Scripture from a smartphone or iPad, am I more spiritual than you?
2) If Preacher Ronnie wears a necktie and dark suit and Preacher Hugh wears a sport shirt and khakis, is Ronnie a greater Christian or better qualified to occupy the pulpit today?
I heard of a woman who had tired of the shallowness and superficiality of the role she was expected to play in dating, so she sent her man a package. Inside, he found lipstick, makeup, hair coloring, and mascara. The note said, “Apparently, these are what you like about me, so have them with my blessings.”
3) If the church service features music from a a Casavant pipe organ and two grand pianos, is that more Christ-honoring than three guitars, a keyboard, and a set of drums?
Fifty million African Christians need to know this because, if so, they’re getting it all wrong.
4) If Charlie and Bessie attend church on Saturday night and enjoy a day in the countryside on Sunday, are they less spiritual than Glenn and Sarah who are always in church Sunday mornings at 11 am?
I’m a Sunday morning guy myself, just so you’ll know. But Sunday is not the Jewish Sabbath. To be sure, we need a day of rest each week and a time of worship. But one will look in vain for anything in Scripture which makes Sunday morning worship the test of orthodoxy.
5) If the Church of the Hymnal sings “Old Rugged Cross” and “A Mighty Fortress” in their service, are they more faithful than the Church of the Chorus which features “The Days of Elijah” and “Shout to the Lord”?
6) Is a 30-minute sermon that moves around the entire Bible and brings in 10 Scriptures all pertaining to the issue less Christ-honoring than one that lasts an hour and exegetes the entire first chapter of I John?
7) Is a worship service where everyone is quiet and attentive less godly than one where many throughout the congregation are standing and clapping, shouting “Hallelujahs,” and weeping?
We need to know and we need to get this settled before we break fellowship with one another over unworthy issues.
If we differ on whether Scripture is inspired of God and profitable for doctrine, correction, etc., then that’s one thing.
If we differ over salvation being of grace through faith or by works, that is a huge matter.
If we are arguing over the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the Second Coming, then I’m willing to enter that argument.
Some things are worth fighting for, worth “dying on that mountain,” as the saying goes.
But not guitars and denims, drum sets and choruses.
Come on, folks.
Sure, we all prefer some things to others. I can take a certain amount of high church music being blasted from the pipe organ, but not much. On the other hand, give me Professor James Allen playing Bach’s “Gesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” or “Sheep May Safely Graze” and I can sit there by the hour.
I confess to liking some music fast and loud. Some like “A Mighty Fortress” should be played and sung with all the gusto we can manage. But let’s not get carried away. No ear plugs for me, please. When a church hands those out to the congregation, I’m gone.
It’s not a spiritual matter, it’s just personal.
The suit and tie are cultural. Entire civilizations have come and gone–with millions of their citizens loving Jesus Christ and following Him–without ever seeing a Hart, Shaffner, and Marx suit. Those poor people. They’re going to be so surprised when they get to Heaven to find their rewards diminished because of this failure.
I am well aware that my Grandma Bessie Lowry McKeever would not have approved of a preacher wearing blue jeans. But Grandma is with Jesus now, and she knows the truth.
Obedience is the essence of faithfulness.